As a teen I let my friend Hayley take a pair of scissors to my scalp in order to use the haircut money my mom gave me to buy a ticket to see Canadian rockers Triumph in concert. It was an awesome show, bad haircut be damned. Years later Rik Emmett – the lead-singer/guitarist of said band – went solo and had a song called “Saved by love.” Whenever it comes up on my iPod while running or cycling, I go extra hard because, you see, I have been saved by love.
Were it not for my wife I am certain my life would have sucked beyond sucked. Lucky for me, I let a friend drag me to a university party to be his wingman, and I met her.
Her: The One.
I was not a good person in my early 20s. Take my word for it. And she fixed me. More than 20 years later I’m far from perfect, but I am a much better man for having met my wife. I’m sure some guys would ask, “And how is this different from being whipped?”
I’m not entirely sure, but think it’s because I was (almost) never nagged. It was like she created a model of this man she believed I could be and held me to that standard. I was encouraged to become him with the carrot instead of the stick.
It was kind of like Jack Nicholson’s line in said in As Good as It Gets: “You make me want to be a better man.” My wife went through a multi-decade process of making me a better person. She’s the patient type.
The point of all this is to tell you that, if the circumstances are right, you can change people who – deep down – want to be changed.
Does this mean I think you should let chemistry rule and pick the bad boy who treats you like crap “because you can change him”? No. There are some criteria for the man you want to change:
- He’s got to love you. Really. A man will do just about anything for a woman he loves.
- He’s got to have potential. You’ll know it when you see it.
- You’ve got to see progress from your efforts. Know when to cut and run.
And as far as achieving that progress goes, remember your operant conditioning: positive reinforcement (rewarding good behaviour) is FAR more powerful as a motivator for achieving lasting behaviour change than punishing bad behaviour.
In other words: carrot, not stick. You decide what qualifies as a carrot.
This isn’t about manipulation, because you may need to do some work too. I don’t think my wife consciously decided, ‘I’m going to get my claws into this man and straighten him out.’ In reality, she was just herself. Her amazingly awesome self. She is kind, giving, caring, hardworking, trustworthy…all those good things. But never once a doormat.
She wouldn’t permit anyone to mistreat her, but her mere presence made the bar so high that I couldn’t help but want to improve to be more like her. It’s like her better qualities rubbed off on me. If you want to change a man for the better, you need to be better too. I mean, if you’re not already awesome. If you are, carry on.
My wife will sheepishly disagree with much of this because I’ve put her on a pedestal. I suppose I helped make her better too. She’s more relaxed from having put up with me all these years. Speaking of which, it’s 17 years of marriage this weekend. Happy anniversary, my love.
Visit James at www.BodyForWife.com.